UNLV Runnin Rebels
@ New Mexico Lobos
Saturday, Jan 9, 2010, 1:00 PM PST
The UNLV Rebels and #15 New Mexico Lobos square off in a battle of teams that lost tough road openers in conference play. UNLV blew a second half lead to fall at BYU, while New Mexico couldn't put away SDSU away early and were handled for much of the second half. UNLV and New Mexico join BYU and SDSU as the clear top half of talent in the Mountain West. Both teams could use a win today to avoid falling to 0-2 in conference play. The Lobos sit as 5.5 point favorites.
While UNLV gets minutes and points from all over their lineup, New Mexico's two big guns are Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez, who average 16.5 and 15.3 points respectively. While Hobson is the leading scorer, the Rebels will have to watch out for when Martinez pulls up behind the 3-pt line where he's currently hitting 48% of his shots. Of course, New Mexico wouldn't be 14-2 without some solid contributions throughout their lineup, including important points from Phillip McDonald and Dairese Gary, who are both averaging in double figures.
UNLV will be looking to get back on track as thy sit in the midst of a 2-game losing streak. They had BYU on the ropes this past Wednesday but could not get the knock-out blow, and blew a chance for a monstrous conference-opening win. They'll need to get more offensive production across the board as Tre'Von Willis was their only major offensive threat against BYU. Oscar Bellfield provided 9 assists, Chase Stanback was solid on the boards, and Kendall Wallace hit some big 3s, but they're going to need more points because Willis can't do it alone at this point.
New Mexico's biggest advantage right now is their strong play at home. The Lobos are 10-0 at home with big wins over a then ranked California team and a currently ranked #22 Texas Tech team. New Mexico has a 19-game winning streak at The Pit, which is one of the top home streaks in the nation. Both games between UNLV and New Mexico last season were close, with UNLV winning by 2 at the Thomas and Mack Center and New Mexico winning by 4 at The Pit.
At this point, it appears as though BYU, SDSU, New Mexico and UNLV will be battling for the conference title, although it's certainly possible Colorado State might sneak into the mix. Even though this is a tough matchup for both schools, a loss would really hurt. I think it's fairly easy to argue it would hurt New Mexico more given the home court advantage.
New Mexico Lobos